Thank you to Natalie Bowers at 1000 Words for publishing my flash fiction piece, How the Fierce Develop. If you haven’t written for 1000 Words, why not take a look at the 1000 Words Pinterest account to see if anything inspires?
How the Fierce Develop
Me, I could feel the wind and the sea at my back – that huge gaping space waiting to suck me in and take me down there with Damien. The surge of water against the weed-darkened bricks of the tower was like having some hungry creature breathing right behind me. I made a big show of not turning, not moving away, but I felt it there as real as I see you there now. I kept my eye on the horizon, where the last of the day was being pushed down below the sea by the heavy clouds, and thanked my stars for the flare of light that broke through, unfolding like a slow and silent explosion and causing my eyes to water.
I don’t think any of us knew what to do. You’d think we were the ones in the water, the way we just stood there as the minutes passed, our movements stalled as though we were down there in the ocean, held there in the current. Charlie was still filming, I think. Or maybe he was using the camera the same way I used the sunset – a good way to hide tears that you didn’t really know the meaning of yet.
Paul was just standing there – you could tell he wanted to say something, the way his hands were bunched up – but he’d never been a brave one. With him more than anyone, Damien had been the light that attracted moths. You didn’t need much of a personality with someone like that around – you could be the most amazing person but you’d always be drab and faded near Damien.
And Jessica. Jessica who’d worshipped the ground he’d walked on, crouched there, just bent over at the edge of the tower like someone had ripped all the strength out of the middle of her. That dark hair, whipping around her face and streaming over the sides of the tower, reaching after him, taking her closer to him than any of the rest of us could be now. And the tears – that was the worst of it. I’d never seen Jess cry before, but the silent heaving sobs and her fist, pressed up hard against her mouth and covered in spit and snot, twisted something in me, twisted it hard.
The storm, closing in heavy behind us now, showed no signs of lifting. You could hardly make out the lighthouse on Tunnock’s Point through the rain rising up like a wall at the north end of the bay. What little blue sky there was left hung directly above us, turning the lichen on the wet stones into silver. I tried to find some kind of beauty in it; some kind of meaning – that it had been Damien holding the storm back, and now that he was gone, there was nothing more to be done. Or that we’d been given a few more moments of grace to come to terms with our failure; to let our stupid, wasteful loss fold over us before the muddy darkness closed over Heddon. I didn’t believe, and it didn’t even matter.
What Damien had told us, we’d wanted so hard to believe it was real. His heavy-lidded eyes, a strange grey colour; his skin so pale you could almost see through it. We’d sucked it all in, all of us, and we’d all believed it. We’d come up here wanting to feel that we were part of something magical, something that would change the fates – change the winds, even. Something that people would remember us for. Charlie had brought that stupid camera and, for a short while, we’d let the thrill of delusion carry us along.
He was gone. The breath that had worked the lungs and pumped the heart and sent blood around his wiry body, all the way to the brain that wove those amazing stories – and that’s all they were – had disappeared in some pointless moment. Coughed out in one last desperate moment under the heavy tide or released in shock as ribs and stone collided, down there in the dark, under the inky surface. It didn’t matter. I didn’t need to see it to know that it was nothing. Nothing but a quick constellation of silver, unique and beautiful for a second or two, then lost in the froth and the scum and the weeds that slapped against the side of the tower where his friends, who might never really have been his friends, waited and wondered what to do. And all the while, there above us, that tiny patch of blue. We watched, and we waited until, finally, there was only dark.